18th Oct2012

Lady Bulldogs fall to SWO, face James Kenan
in 1A state playoffs

by Lee Wagner

HOLLY RIDGE – For the first two games of last night’s volleyball showdown between Dixon and Southwest Onslow High Schools the tension reigned throughout the gymnasium as a pair of two-point decisions had the match deadlocked at 1-1 heading into what many coaches consider the critical game of any match outside of the fifth game – the third.

And that’s when the bottom seemed to drop out for the Lady Bulldogs. Dixon Coach Heather Moore said it was something that had haunted her team, at times, pretty much through the entire season – a refusal to put mistakes behind them and move on to the next point.

Whatever the cause it put the Lady Bulldogs into the second-seed out of the conference for the upcoming NCHSAA 1A state playoffs, and that will not be an easy road to travel.

Seniors Allison Brown and Caitlin Trexel combined for 15 service points, nine kills, and 35 digs but it was enough to hold off the Lady Stallions as Southwest Onslow defeated Dixon 3-1 (26-24, 23-25, 11-25, 17-25) on Wednesday in a game that decided the No. 1 seed out of the East Central 2A Conference in the upcoming NCHSAA 1A state volleyball playoffs.

Dixon (11-6), the No.-2 seed, will be at home on Saturday against James Kenan (9-9), the No. 3 seed out of the Tri-County 1A Conference dominated by Lakewood and Pender. Five (three to Pender and two to Lakewood) of the Lady Tigers’ losses have come at the hands of those two programs, who enter the playoffs with a combined 40-7 record. A win against James Kenan would potentially send the Lady Bulldogs to Burgaw for a match on Tuesday with Pender (20-5).

Southwest Onslow (15-4) will be at home for a least the first two rounds, starting Saturday with a match against Spring Creek (9-9), the No. 4 seed from the Carolina Conference.

“It’s disappointing, for sure,” Moore said. “I told the girls it would have been fantastic to be No. 1 because it’s a better position to be in but they should be happy they were co-champions in the regular season. Winning the conference title was one of our goals in the beginning.

“Southwest played fantastic, better than the first two times we played them, and they deserved to win tonight. Over the course of the season we have been unable, when we make a few mistakes, to let go and it becomes kind of contagious, and I think that’s what happened tonight. This is a game of errors and at times you have to shake them off and move on.”

The Lady Bulldogs made plenty of unforced errors – 54 of Southwest’s total of 99 points were unforced (balls hit out of bounds, into the net, or fell on the floor due to miscommunication) errors, and that will not produce victories almost anywhere.

Dixon made 13 of those unforced errors in the first game but they managed to hold on in a game that was tied 11 times – the last at 24-24 on an unforced error by Southwest.  Alyssa Aquafredda knocked down a kill to put the Lady Bulldogs up 25-24, and another unforced Lady Stallions’ mistake made it 26-24, sending the match to the second game.

There was just one tie in the second game at 1-1 before Southwest took a scant 3-1 lead, maintaining that advantage all the way through the contest. A four-point surge gave the Lady Stallions a 10-5 lead but Dixon chipped away and trailed 23-20 and 24-21 late before a kill by Southwest’s Taylor Marley tied the match at 1-1. The Lady Bulldogs had 15 unforced errors in that game.

Southwest jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the third game, five of those points Dixon errors, and never looked back, A four-point run made it 17-8, and a subsequent five-pointer gave the Lady Stallions an insurmountable 20-10 advantage. They used a four-point spurt from 21-11 gave Southwest a 2-1 lead in games. The Lady Bulldogs had another 15 unforced errors in that game.

The Dixon girls gave it the old college try in the fourth game, tying the game three times at 2-2, 3-3, and 6-6 before a nine-point Southwest run produced a 15-6 lead that seemed to totally take the wind out of Dixon’s sails.

The Lady Bulldogs closed to within five at 15-10 but that would be as close as they would get as Southwest closed out the game, and the match, on two more unforced Dixon hitting miscues – giving them 11 in this contest.

“I would have liked to see us play as excited in the third and fourth games as we did in the first two but because of so many errors, and some outstanding play by Southwest, we lost that.”

Game time for Saturday’s has been set for 5 p.m.

SWO               25-25-25-25

Dixon              26-23-11-17

Dixon: Allison Brown 4 points, 8 kills, 2 blocks, 1 assist, 22 digs; Miranda Davis 2 points, 2 aces, 11 kills, 21 digs, 1 block; Darian Meridyth 5 kills, 3 blocks, 3 assists, 5 digs; Catilin Trexel 11 points, 13 digs, 2 aces; Kelsey Pearce 5 points, 18 assists, 5 kills, 9 digs, 6 blocks; Alyssa Aquafredda 1 point, 6 kills, 5 digs, 1 block; Kellie Peterson 3 points, 10 assists, 1 ace; Bailie Saeger 1 kill, 3 blocks, 1 assist; Corki Aquafredda 1 kill, 1 dig; Kirsten Merritt 3 kills, 4 digs, 1 assist.

SWO: Amanda McCurry 5 kills, 1 block, 2 digs; Naya Burney 7 kills, 17 assists, 2 digs; Alexis France 2 aces, 8 kills, 6 digs; Hali Bozenhart 6 kills, 1 block, 1 dig; Taylor Marley 7 kills, 12 assists, 1 ace; Jessie Sbrocco 3 kills, 2 digs, 2 aces.

17th Oct2012

Topsail men’s cross country win championship,
Woods breaks school record

by Contributor

HAMPSTEAD - The Topsail High School Men’s Cross Country Team won the East Central 2A championship meet held yesterday at Cabin Lake Park in East Duplin County. Varsity runner Brady Woods led the race with a finish of 17:04 breaking the Topsail High school record for the fastest time by a Topsail male cross country runner.

The Topsail High Women’s team finished fourth overall. Both teams will progress to the regional championships to be held Saturday, October 27th at Boyd Lee Park in Winterville, NC.

Below are the meet results:

Men’s Competition

1- Topsail High, Score: 43

2- Swansboro High, Score: 65

3- Richlands High, Score: 65

4- South Lenoir High, Score: 106

5- Croatan High, Score: 110

6- East Duplin High, Score: 161

7- Clinton High, Score: 190

Men Finishers in the Top 12

1. Brady Woods, Topsail, 17:04

2. Nick Pugh, Croatan, 17:11

3. Mason Zeagler, South Lenoir, 17:38

4. Jackson Moore, Topsail, 17:48

5. Sergio Guzman, East Duplin, 17:52

6. Reid Henderson, Swansboro, 17:58

7. Isaac Martinez, Richlands, 18:01

8. Dillon Emch, Richlands, 18:05

9. Maximino Smith, Richlands, 18:09

10. Christian Dickens, Topsail, 18:11

11. Domenick Dibiase, Topsail, 18:12

12. Bryan Mol, Swansboro, 18:20

Women’s Competition

1- Swansboro High, Score: 25

2- Croatan High, Score: 55

3- Clinton High, Score: 98

4- Topsail High, Score: 100

5- South Lenoir, Score: 114

6- Richlands High, Score: 145

4- East Duplin High, Score: 202

Women Finishers in the Top 12

1. Brenna Kate Grass, Swansboro, 19:32

2. Savannah Pugh, Croatan, 20:16

3. Kierstyn Horton, Swansboro, 21:14

4. Caroline Jones, South Lenoir, 21:27

5. Mariah Butchko, Swansboro, 21:36

6. Grace Reagan, Clinton, 21:40

7. Tiffany Saulsgiver, Swansboro, 21:41

8. Lexi Valenti, Clinton, 21:44

9. Mia Horvath, Swansboro, 21:55

10. Mary Stegall, Croatan, 22:00

11. Macy Brinson, Croatan, 22:02

12. Janae Rubendall, Richlands, 22:05

17th Oct2012

Lady Bulldogs, SWO both win, first-place showdown tonight

by Lee Wagner

JACKSONVILLE – Someone once said, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but the Dixon High School volleyball team came precariously close to blowing a golden opportunity last night in their final regular-season conference volleyball match at Lejeune.

Starting the night in a first-place deadlock with Southwest Onslow, it appeared the Lady Bulldogs had the easier path to a conference-title showdown as they

traveled to Camp Lejeune for a game with the 1-8 (in conference) Lady Devil Pups, while Southwest Onslow had a home game against third-place Pamlico, which had three conference losses (two to Dixon and one to SWO).

But the Lady Stallions (14-9, 9-1) rose to the occasion with a 3-0 (25-11, 25-16, 25-15) win over the Lady Hurricanes (14-6, 6-4), while Dixon struggled to take out Lejeune in five games.

Senior Caitlin Trexel had 11 service points, two kills, four aces, and 10 digs, and classmate Kelsey Pearce had a big night with five points, eight kills, nine assists, six digs, and a block as Dixon held came from behind to hold off Lejeune 3-2 (25-21, 20-25, 20-25, 25-17, 15-7) on Tuesday in a key Coastal Plains 1A Conference game on the Camp Lejeune Marine Base.

Now the Lady Bulldogs (11-6, 9-1) will play host to Southwest tonight at 5:00 p.m. for the conference’s No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCHSAA 1A state layoffs. The two teams and Pamlico finished as conference co-champions in the regular season for last year.

“Hopefully we got that (a bad night) out of our systems,” Dixon Coach Heather Moore said. “I hate that we had to do that (come from behind and win in five games) but now we have to put it behind us and get ready for tomorrow.

“The girls are excited about the game tomorrow, and I am happy we have the chance to be where we are, and to play Southwest again.”

Last year when the three teams tied for first, the Lady Stallions got the short end of a draw and were the third seed in the playoffs, precipitating a first-round road game. The Lady Stallions lost 3-0 at Camden. Both Pamlico and Dixon had home games in the first round. Pamlico beat East Carteret 3-0 before going on the road and losing 3-1 to Princeton.

Dixon was at home and won 3-0 over Goldsboro in the first round, stayed home and won 3-2 over Rosewood in the second round, and was at home but lost 3-1 to Princeton in the third round.

This year’s preliminary bracket has the Coastal Plains 1A Conference No. 1 seed at home in the first round against the No. 4 seed out of the Carolina Conference and, if they win that one, at home against the winner of the game between the No. 2 seed out of the Carolina Conference or the No. 3 seed (Pamlico) from the Coastal Plains 1A Conference.

The second-seeded team will have a definitively tougher road to hoe with an initial home game against the No. 3 seed out of the Tri-County 1A Conference (presumably right now that would be James Kenan), then a potential road game in the second round against either the No. 1 seed from the Tri-County 1A Conference (either Lakewood or Pender – to be decided tonight at Union in their conference-tournament final), or in the event of a major upset, the No. 3 seed out of the Carolina Conference.

Dixon              25-20-20-25-15

Lejeune          21-25-25-17-  7

Dixon: Caitlin Trexel 11 points, 2 kills, 4 aces, 10 digs; Kelsey Pearce 5 points, 8 kills, 9 assists, 8 aces, 6 digs; Alyssa Aquafredda 2 points, 1 kills, 2 aces; Allison Brown 9 points, 5 kills, 3 aces, 10 digs, 1 block; Miranda Davis 3 points, 4 kills, 2 aces, 6 digs,, 1 block; Kellie Peterson 6 points, 6 points, 12 assists, 2 digs; Darian Meridyth 7 kills.

17th Oct2012

Lady Pirates make Sr. Night even more special
with 44th-straight conference win

by Lee Wagner

HAMPSTEAD – If there has ever been a night when a high-school sports’ team was not going to lose a game, it was Tuesday night at Topsail High School – there simply was too much on the line for the Lady Pirates.

To start the night, it was Senior Night and it was a pretty good bet that Carlie Smith, Angie Poage, Lacey Akerley, Summer Darnell, and Kaleigh Bordeaux – competitors each and every one of them – were not going to let anyone spoil their special evening.

Having already clinched their third-straight East Central 2A Conference title last Thursday at Richlands, there was still one more item of conference business to take care of – a winning streak.

Starting with the final two games of the 2009 season, and continuing through unbeaten championship seasons in 2010 and 2011, and adding in 13 wins in 13 games thus far this year, the Lady Pirates had won 43-conference matches in a row, and Swansboro stood in the way of No. 44 in Topsail’s final game as a 2A school in conference.

A loss – it just wasn’t going to happen, and it didn’t!

Carlie Smith had nine service points, 17 kills, six blocks, three aces, and 11 digs, and Angie Poage had 16 points, 2 aces, 1 kill, 21 assists, and 14 digs as Topsail rolled to a 3-0 (25-10, 25-18, 25-18) win over Swansboro on Tuesday in an East Central 2A Conference volleyball game in Hampstead.

The Lady Pirates (19-3, 14-0) must now wait until the NCHSAA 2A state playoff brackets are finalized to find out who their first tournament opponent is going to be. The preliminary bracket indicated it would be a wild-card team, and reports last night indicated the hope is to play the game at either 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. at home on Saturday.

A previously-rescheduled non-conference game set for today at Ashley was cancelled as Ashley awaited a decision from J. H. Rose of Greenville as to whether the Lady Rampants were going to come to Wilmington tomorrow (Thursday) to break the regular-season, first-place tie in the Mid-Eastern Conference.

But this is all about the Lady Pirates and their amazing winning streak in a very tough 2A conference.

“It’s really pretty crazy,” said Smith, who along with Poage (both four-year varsity starters) has only lost one (2009) conference game in their four years. “It’s really cool, not too many people can say that (one loss and 44-straight wins), and it should give us a lot of confidence going into the playoffs.”

Smith has been the go-to player on the team almost since she first put on the Lady Pirates’ uniform, and she said the responsibility was welcomed and it made her grow as a person.

“It has made me grow as a player, and as a person,” Smith said. “When people are looking up to you, as they have for both Angie and I in our four years, you feel the pressure but it is a tremendous learning process, both on and off the court. But the feeling now makes everything worth it.”

The Lady Pirates have been strong supporters of the Black Hats’ football team, and Tuesday that support was reciprocated as the football players halted their practice and came into the gym for the introductions and a sizeable portion of the first game, and it clearly had an effect on the hometown Lady Pirates, and on Swansboro.

“That was great,” Topsail Coach Hill Pearsall said. “The girls go out and they’ve got a whole cheering section at the football games so it was nice for the team to come out and cheer for the girls. It definitely got them fired up.”

Enough to jump out to leads of 8-0 and 12-1 to start the first game and, amazingly, seniors Smith, Poage, and Summer Darnell accounted for nine of those first 12 points.

In the opening eight-point surge, Smith had three kills and two blocks, and Poage had an ace to account for six of the eight points. In a subsequent four-point spurt, Smith had another kill and Darnell had a pair of aces, and Swansboro – awed a bit by the vocal and enthusiastic football players – never recovered.

The score was 14-4 before an underclassman – super sophomore Kayla Hyatt – recorded a kill. Hyatt followed that with another kill, and the rout was on. Smith had seven kills and three blocks, Poage had two aces and four assists, Darnell had a pair of aces, and classmate Lacey Akerley had an assist and four digs in the opener.

Swansboro managed just four offensive points in the first game and they doubled that to eight in the second, but the Lady Pirates would have no parts of a comeback of any kind.

Topsail never trailed in the game, and was leading 17-8 when Swansboro, behind four aces by Bailey Rabidou, closed to within four at 17-13. Swansboro got as close as 19-17 and 22-18 before a three-point spurt – highlighted by kills from Hyatt and junior Reagan Holloway – put game two in the win column. The fifth senior, Bordeaux, contributed a pair of crucial digs to the win.

Swansboro hung tough in the third game up to a 10-10 deadlock before the Lady Pirates started to pull away. Two kills by Smith a kill by Darnell, and one by Poage fueled a five-point run that took Topsail from a 10-7 deficit to a 12-10 lead. After Swansboro closed to within one at 12-11, the Lady Pirates ran off five more points – Smith had a pair of kills in this run, too, for a 17-12 advantage,

Two kills by Hyatt and an ace from Smith later produced a 22-13 advantage. Swansboro crept back a bit at 22-15 and 24-18 before a Hyatt kill ended the game, and the match, and finalized the amazing winning streak.

“I don’t think, early on, the girls thought much about the streak, we didn’t talk about it,” Pearsall said. “As the season went on the girls started realizing the significance of it. We’ve been very lucky we’ve had a lot of girls step up as some others have graduated.

“Next year (in the split Mid-Eastern 3A/4A Conference with 4A schools Ashley, Hoggard, Laney, and New Hanover, and 3A South and West Brunswick) it will be tougher but we hope to hold our own. It’s been an amazing run and now we just want to get further in the playoffs than we did last year (third round).”

Swansboro     10-18-18

Topsail            25-25-25

Topsail: Carlie Smith 9 points, 3 aces, 17 kills, 6 blocks, 11 digs; Angie Poage 16 points, 21 assists, 2 aces, 1 kill, 14 digs; Summer Darnell 7 points, 3 kills, 3 aces, 5 digs; Lacey Akerley 2 points, 1 kill, 1 assist, 4 digs; Kaleigh Bordeaux 4 digs; Kayla Hyatt 9 points, 11 kills, 1 ace, 1 block, 11 digs; Sarah Woodward 3 points, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 5 digs; Jenna Register 2 points, 1 assist, 1 ace; Reagan Holloway 1 kill 3 digs; Chandler Skipper 8 digs; Annie Johnson 1 kill.

Swansboro: Ashley Oriol 2 aces, 5 kills; Alex Blue 4 kills; Alyah Johnson 1 kill; Bailey Rabidou 6 assists, 4 aces, 8 digs, 2 kills; Toni McTaggert 1 ace; Kylie Cleve 2 kills; Alex Watkins 1 kill.

16th Oct2012

Nobody asked me but – Playoff time brings
some possibly intriguing matchups

by Lee Wagner

Nobody asked me, but……….The state playoffs have arrived in tennis, they are just six (counting Monday) days away in volleyball, and two weeks away in football, and there could be some interesting possibilities that lie ahead.

Tennis began today  and we have two local teams in the 1A bracket – Pender and Dixon – and one team in the 2A bracket – Topsail.

Looking at the 2A bracket first, the Pirates (12-3) – the top seed out of the East Central 2A Conference – appear to be in a good position to advance through the first round as they will be at home for a match with Corinth Holders (10-4), the No. 2 –seeded team out of the Northern Carolina Conference.

Now nothing is etched in stone but the Pirates are pretty decent, and the fact that Corinth Holders has to travel from Wendell, which is approximately 12 miles from Raleigh, can’t hurt. Being home is always a good way to start the playoffs.

Dixon (6-8) gets a bye in the first round of the 1A playoffs as they are the No. 1 seed out of the Coastal Plains 1A Conference. If form holds true, however, the Lady Bulldogs will be on the road for their first actual playoff match.

Wallace-Rose Hill (2-2) is the top seed out of the Tri-County 1A Conference, and they are scheduled to play host to North Duplin (5-3), a wild-card selection from the Carolina Conference. Now the Tri-County 1A Conference doesn’t have too many teams playing tennis so it’s hard to predict who will win that first game. If Wallace wins, Dixon is headed to Teachey for the second round. If North Duplin wins, the Lady Rebels would come to Holly Ridge for the second round.

Guess that means we should say, “Go Lady Rebels!”

The Lady Patriots of Pender (2-2) got in as a wild card and they have a tough task as they must travel to East Columbus (9-4), the top-seeded team from the Three Rivers Conference.

Again, not being too informed in the world of tennis, it’s hard to predict but just based on the fact the Lady Gators have 13 matches – of which they were victorious in nine – gives them the edge.

The fun begins in volleyball on Saturday and our area has Dixon, Pender, and Trask taking part – I think – in the 1A bracket, and Topsail in the 2A bracket.

Let’s start with the easy one – 2A. Topsail is the No. 1 seed out of the tough East Central 2A Conference, and they will most assuredly be home on Saturday as they will face a wild-card selection.

Since the brackets on the NCHSA site are only preliminary, it doesn’t say which conference is the higher seeded. But if form holds the Lady Pirates will be at home for the second round against the winner of the match between the No. 3 seed out of the East Central and the No.2 seed out of the Mid-State Conference.

The Mid-State Conference consists of Eastern Alamance, Eastern Guilford, Dalton McMichael, Morehead, Northern Guilford, Rockingham County, Western Alamance, and Walter Williams. Don’t really know much about any of them, or which will be the No. 2, but it is a good bet they will face South Lenoir. One thing we know about the Lady Blue Devils is they are a scrappy bunch with some height and an excellent back line. A win by South Lenoir would set up a second-round match at Topsail between the two conference rivals,, and remember, the Lady Blue Devils – to date – are the only East Central team to hand the Lady Pirates a defeat in a single game, and they did it twice.

I hate looking too far ahead because you don’t know where and who you will play as the playoffs go deeper. By the third round most of the wannabes are gone. But a possible interesting match could occur in the East semifinals if both Topsail and East Duplin advance to that round.

The Lady Panthers (16-2, 11-2) have two losses, and there is no prize for guessing who beat them twice. I don’t know if (Topsail’s) Hill Pearsall or (East Duplin’s) Elizabeth Turner would look forward to that match but it would be a doozy.

Dixon has to wait until Tuesday night to find out if they will be first second out of the Coastal Plains 1A Conferene. Pamlico is at Southwest Onslow and Dixon is at Lejeune.

It will be the Lady Devil Pups’ Senior Night and emotions will be high but if the Lady Bulldogs play the way they are capable of, I like their chances in that one. The other deciding game – of course – is huge. If Pamlico somehow beats Southwest at home on their Senior Night, Dixon gets the top seed out of the conference.

If Southwest and Dixon wins there will be a playoff match on Wednesday at Dixon at 5 p.m. There was a coin flip earlier today (Monday) and as Dixon Coach Heather Moore stated in a recent text message, “The coin was good to us.”

Pender, too, must play the waiting game. Since the Lady Patriots and Lakewood tied for first in the regular-season standings, the Tri-County 1A Conference tournament, which began Monday, will decide the top seed. Whichever team finishes highest at the end of the tournament is the top seed. Looking at the competition, I think that will be decided on Wednesday at Union when the Lady Leopards and Pender meet in the tournament final.

Trask is also going to be in the playoffs. The Lady Titans finished in a three-way tie for third in the standings but drew the short straw in the tournament seeding and they will travel to Midway today for the first round. They could finish anywhere from third through fifth but wherever they finish they will more-than likely be on the road.

One quick last note about the football playoff possibilities – Topsail played last in 2AA last year, and that could be a good thing if that’s where they are this year. Both East Duplin and Northside were in the 2A bracket last year, which means the Pirates would not have to face either of the teams that beat them in the conference, although I believe they would like to take another run at the Panthers.

Of course, there is a team in that 2AA bracket called Kinston, but they are currently only 5-4. Kinston beat Topsail 53-20 last year to end their playoff run.

It could be interesting, and fun, all around. That’s what I think, what do you think?

Nobody asked me but…………….The New York Yankees are down 2-0 to Detroit in the American League Championship series, they get to face Juistin Verlander tomorrow (Tuesday) night in Detroit, and they will have to do it without their inspirational leader, and captain, Derek Jeter, who is out for the rest of the year with a broken ankle.

Now that’s I call having your back up against the wall!

I guess stranger things have happened, and it is the Yankees, but – hey – facing Verlander twice if it goes seven, I don’t like the odds. Detroit will be in the World Series, you can bet the farm, but don’t do it on my say-so (lol). I’ve been wrong before.

On the other side, the St. Louis Cardinals are leading the San Francisco Giants 1-0 and they are sending Chris Carpenter to the mound tonight. I saw this as a matchup between the better pitching staff (Giants) and the better hitting team (cardinals) but if they continue to get the pitching like they have so far in the playoffs, don’t be surprised to see a return trip in the cards (no pun intended) for St. Louis.

Whatever the series matchup, I like Verlander and Miguel Cabrera and Jim Leyland to win it all.

That’s what I think, what do you think?

16th Oct2012

Lady Patriots roll into second round of conference tourney

by Lee Wagner

BURGAW – Just after his retirement as the coach of the Pender High School volleyball team the administration at Pender deemed it right to name the volleyball court at Pender the Ray Horton Volleyball Court – a fitting tribute for their longtime coach who led the Lady Patriots to back-to-back NCHSAA 1A state titles in 2009 and 2010.

Monday night Horton returned as a volunteer assistant coach for the Lady Bulldogs of Wallace-Rose Hill in the first round of the Tri-County 1A Conference volleyball tournament, and well some of his previous players – now playing in college – like Jessica Sanabria (Randolph) and Haley Lanier (Catawba) welcomed their former coach back with smiles and hugs, the current members of the Lady Patriots volleyball team weren’t nearly as hospitable.

Senior Kayvia Thompson had 10 kills and nine aces, junior Jackie Sanabra had 22 assists and two aces, and senior K. B. Hansley had six kills and five aces as Pender dismantled Wallace-Rose Hill 3-0 (25-9, 26-24, 25-12) on Monday in the opening round of  the Tri-County 1A Conference Tournament on the Ray Horton Volleyball Court at Pender.

Pender (16-5) now moves on to face James Kenan, the No. 3 seed, at 5:00 p.mn. today (Tuesday) at Union. James Kenan beat Hobbton 3-1 (25-14, 19-25, 27-25, 25-23). Lakewood, who tied with Pender for the regular-season title, defeated Union 3-0 (25-8, 25-14, 25-10). The Lady Leopards will face Midway, a 3-2 (25-20, 20-25, 11-25, 25-20, 15-12) winner over Trask, at Union approximately 30 minutes after the Pender vs. James Kenan match.

The winners of the two games tonight will meet on Wednesday for the conference tournament and – most likely – the top seed out of the conference in the upcoming NCHSAA 1A state tournament, which begins on Saturday.

“It was pretty much what I expected,” Pender Coach Matt Davis said. “We played well without the crowd being in it too much and I told the girls that’s what we will have to do in the playoffs, especially if we have to go on the road.”

While the second game was close from a scoring standpoint, the match was really more defined by the first and third games. The Lady Bulldogs almost looked like a deer in a the headlights as Pender took a 5-2 lead early, increased it to 9-4 then to 14-5 before putting the icing on the cake with a 10-point run.

Thompson was on serve in the 10-pointer and she had four aces to go along a kill and two kills from Hansley. Pender had 24 aces on the night as Wallace struggled mightily with the serve/receive.

Davis opted to rest his starters at the beginning of the second game and the Lady Bulldogs took advantage a bit, although the Pender second unit – with two girls (Alli Crist and Gelleana Mendez) up from the junior-varsity for the tournament and the playoffs on the floor – played well.

The game was close, and actually tied at 8-8, 10-10, and 12-12, before Wallace went on a six-point surge to open an 18-13 lead. That is when Davis went back to the first unit, and that group outscored the Lady Bulldogs 13-6 the rest of the way in securing a two-point victory. Thompson was again on serve with Pender down 24-21 and she served out the match with two aces, two unforced mistakes by Wallace, and a kill by Hansley.

“We played with the younger girls because from here on the rotation is going to get tighter and I wanted them to get some playing time, and they played well,” Davis said. “When they got up by five I decided to put the starters back in just so they could get their legs back under them for the third game, and they got on a roll to pull it out.”

With a potential three games in three days and the state tournament on Saturday, the starters were back on the court for the third game because Davis did not want to see a fourth game.

That game lost its competitiveness early as Pender jumped out to early leads of 5-1 and 10-2 before a three-point run and a five-point spurt provided Davis and the Lady Patriots with a 19-4 advantage, at which point mass substitutions ensued.

Now Pender must get ready for James Kenan, a team they beat 3-1(25-14, 25-18, 16-25, 25-20) on Sept. 4 at James Kenan, and 3-0 (25-13, 25-9, 25-8) at Pender on Sept. 27.

Tradition says it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season, and Davis knows his girls will have to be at the top of their game if they want to be playing for that No. 1 seed on Wednesday.

“We know they have a very good middle hitter and blocker, and they’re dangerous if they get the pass to the setter and she (the hitter) gets her opportunities,” Davis said. “We just have to avoid making silly mistakes and make sure we cover her up at the net and I think we’ll be okay.”

WRH                9-24-12

Pender            25-26-25

Pender: Kayvia Thompson 10 kills, 9 aces, 5 digs; Alyssa Carter 4 kills, 2 blocks, 3 aces; Ruby Gasca 1 kill, 1 ace; Katy Stewart 5 assists; Brenee’ Jones 1 dig; K. B. Hansley 6 kills, 5 aces; Cassidy Miller 3 aces, 2 digs; Brianna Pittman 5 kills, 2 blocks; Jackie Sanabria 22 assists, 2 aces; Meghan Cleary 1 kill; Amber Pyland 2 kills; Hannah Peterson 1 ace; Gelleana Mendez 1 kill; Journey Knowles 1 kill, 1 block.

WRH: Brittany Scarborough 1 kill; Kamryn Sessoms 3 kills; Hailey Williams 1 kill, 1 ace; Halee Knowles 5 kills; Allis Aycock 2 aces, 1 block; Jamira Henry 2 kills; Reagan Page 1 kill; Amber Dixon 2 aces.

14th Oct2012

Topsail honors fallen local hero

by Lee Wagner

HAMPSTEAD – In our daily lives we all too often throw the word, “hero,” around way too easily, sometimes referring to athletic achievements, to people like 12-year old Kimberly Batchelor who is battling a rare form of cancer, to policemen and firemen who serve and protect us in ways we don’t often appreciate, and to everyday citizens who put their lives in jeopardy at times, and who donate organs so others may live.

Roget’s Thesaurus defines hero as, “brave man, superman, champion, conqueror, and idol,” and I assume that’s why we include athletes in with all of those other true heroes listed above, although I personally believe that is stretching the term.

But last night at a football game at Topsail High School and Croatan, the Pirates “family” took time to honor one of their own – a man that deserves the title hero in the ultimate definition of the word.

Friday night Topsail offered a special tribute to Army National Guard Sgt. Thomas Jefferson Butler IV, a 2006 graduate of Topsail High School where he excelled on the baseball diamond, on the football gridiron, and in the classroom.

Butler gave the ultimate sacrifice to his country on Oct. 1 in Afghanistan when a cowardly suicide bomber targeted his patrol group, killing Butler and two of his comrades.

Butler served as a Military Police Officer with the North Carolina National Guard’s 514th Military Police Company out of Winterville. Butler leaves behind his wife, Holly, and their seven-month old son, Thomas Jefferson Butler V, and several extended family members.

T’. J.’s former Coach, Ian Roper, offered these words about T. J.

“He was an awesome kid, a joy to coach, and a great teammate,” Roper said. “He was a kid that all parents want to be their kids, to grow up to be like. His death is a tragedy but his life was a gift to anyone that knew him.”

Friday night, and throughout the rest of the season, the Black Hats (Topsail football team) will proudly wear No. 10 on their helmets in honor of T. J., and his ultimate sacrifice.

At halftime, Topsail Principal Berry Simmons and Athletics’ Director B. J. Horne presented a very heroic Holly Butler a football to be given to their son, a check which was the results of donations made at and before the game, and non-perishable food products to restock a pantry that was depleted during the family’s grieving process.

What made the halftime ceremony extra special was that Holly Butler and T. J.’s parents came despite the fact she, and his parents, laid their beloved husband and son to rest earlier in the day.

Topsail also took time to honor all current and former Military personnel on Military Appreciation Night. Topsail public address announcer Tripp Jacobs addressed the crowd prior to a moment of silence for Sgt. Butler and the National Anthem with these words,

“Tonight Topsail High School welcomes and would like to recognize members of our military forces. These brave young men and women have dedicated their lives to service, and through their sacrifices we are able to live in a free country and enjoy many freedoms that are often taken for granted.

“We would also like to thank the families of these brave soldiers for the many sacrifices they make in order to keep things running on the home front. Your support does not go unnoticed, and is truly appreciated.

“Now we asked everyone to please stand and join me as we observe a Moment of Silence in T. J.’s memory. We will conclude the moment of silence with our National Anthem.’

The Topsail family asks everyone to keep the Butler family in our prayers throughout the days and weeks ahead, and may God bless the soul of this man who best exemplifies the title, “HERO!”

 

13th Oct2012

Pirates rally in second half for 32-14 win over Croatan

by Contributor

HAMPSTEAD – Emotions are feelings that can run a huge gamut, and last night at Topsail High School on Military Appreciation Night emotions pretty much ran the full spectrum – from sadness, to honor, to shock, to subdued honor and respect, and finally, to joy in a football game that ended with a Pirates come-from-behind victory.

It was a sad scene at the beginning as there was a moment of silence for a local fallen hero – Army National Guard Sgt. Thomas Jefferson Butler IV – who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his nation when a suicide bomber drove into a group of American servicemen, ending the life of Butler, a 2006 graduate of Topsail who excelled on the baseball diamond and on the football field as well as in the classroom, and two of his comrades.

The shock of the evening came in the first half of the football game between the home-standing Pirates and visiting Croatan as the Cougars vaulted out to a 14-3 lead heading into the halftime break.

The honor and respect part came at halftime, and that goes to Holly Butler, the wife of Sgt. Butler, who came to the game along with Butler’s parents knowing that the Topsail family was honoring her husband on the evening of the day they laid this fallen hero to rest.

Then came the joy in the form of a 29-point second half that help the inspired Pirate players, who will wear Butler’s former No. 10 on their uniforms for the remainder of the season, to gain an important conference victory.

Josh Jessup’s 41-yard touchdown scamper with 7:54 seconds left in the game provided Topsail with an 18-14 lead, and subsequent touchdowns by Devin Williams and a second by Jessup provided the insurance as Topsail defeated Croatan 32-14 on Friday in a key East Central 2A Conference football game.

Topsail now stands at 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the conference with games left at home next Friday against Richlands (3-6, 2-3), and on the road on Oct. 26 at Swansboro (4-5, 1-4). Croatan fell to 4-4 and 2-3 in conference play. Should the Pirates win out they would be guaranteed a spot in the 2AA playoffs.

Last year the East Central 2A Conference had Topsail and Swansboro in the 2AA bracket, and East Duplin, Northside, and Croatan in the 2A bracket – meaning five teams from the conference were playoff eligible. Last night the Pirates took a major step toward reaching that playoff goal.

“From here on out every game is a playoff game,” Topsail Coach Bryan Davis said. “And if we play every game with that mentality it will help us not only get in but it will help us when we get there because we will be used to the one-and-done pressure. That’s part of what makes this such a big win.”

And the Pirates did it in a big way with 29-unanswered points in the second half after watching the Cougars take a 14-3 lead into the halftime intermission.

“We made a few adjustments and Coach got us lined up in the right defense and we flew around, played Topsail football, and didn’t miss tackles like we did in the first half,” said Topsail senior linebacker and wide receiver Mason Kimmel, who finished the game with five tackles.

The Pirates definitely needed some adjustments after a first half in which second-quarter touchdowns by Marshall Judon (5 yards) and 6-foot-3 wide receiver Mitchell Smith (a 29-yard scoring pass from Kyle Hopewell) overshadowed a 39-yard, first-period field goal off the toe of Topsail’s Alec Webster.

Croatan had 202 total yards to Topsail’s 99 yards in the first half, and they held a tremendous 12-3 advantage in first downs over that first minutes.

“In the first half our execution was poor on both sides of the ball,, and our defensive shortcomings were on me because it took me a while to figure out what they were doing,” Topsail Coach Bryan Davis said. “We did a terrible job of covering their pitch man and we did a better job with that and on defense in general in the second half.”

Croatan managed a total of 88 yards (34 rushing and 54 passing) over the second 24minutes while the Topsail offense came alive to the tune of 175 yards. It also helped that the Cougars turned the ball over five times (3 fumbles and two interceptions), giving them 16 in three consecutive losses to Northside (7), East Duplin (4), and the Pirates.

The comeback started early in the second half when an anticipated Cougars’ punt turned into a Topsail two-point safety when the ball was snapped over the punter’s head and rolled out of the back of the end zone.

Croatan punted after the safety and Topsail had good field position at the Croatan 45-yard line. Six plays later, aided b a personal foul against the Cougars, they had closed their deficit to 14-11 when Williams rambled 20 yards into the end zone and Webster connected on the point-after.

Midway through the fourth quarter the Pirates took advantage of a short 27-yard punt by Croatan and took over on the Cougars’ 49-yard line. Jessup provided the lead with a 41-yard run with 7:54 left on the game clock.

A fumble on Croatan’s next series gave the Pirates renewed life at the Croatan 21-yard line and on the second Pirate offensive play sophomore quarterback Austin Schoenleber hooked up with Williams on a 20-yard scoring play to make it 25-14 with 6:04 left in the game.

Croatan went for it on fourth-and-11 on their next series in an effort to get back in the game but the pass on fourth down was incomplete and Topsail had the ball on the Cougars’ 41-yard line. Jessup capped a 41-yard, seven-play drive with a four-yard touchdown burst and it was game, set, and match.

“We did a little more sprinting out in the second half to negate their blitzes and the guys (linemen) did a good job, and we were simply better able to execute our game plan,” Schoenleber said.

Croatan          0-14-0-0=14

Topsail            3-0-8-21-32

First Quarter

Topsail – Alex Webster 39 Field Goal, 1:29

Second Quarter

Croatan – Marshall Judon 5 run (Kyle Colburn kick), 1:40

Croatan – Mitchell Smith 9 pass from Kyle Hopewell (Kyle Colburn kick), 0:14.9

Third Quarter

Topsail – Safety, ball snapped out of end zone on punt attempt, 11:12

Topsail – Devin Williams 10 run (Kick blocked), 8:53

Fourth Quarter

Topsail – Josh Jessup 41 run (Alec Webster kick), 7:54

Topsail – Devin Williams 19 pass from Austin Schoenleber (Alec Webster kick), 6:04

Topsail – Josh Jessup 4 run (Alec Webster kick), 1:38

Team Statistics                       Topsail                        Croatan

First Downs                                12                                 16

Rushing                                    39-189                         36-113

Passing                                 7-11-85-0                    9-24-143-2

Fumbles/Lost                 1/1                               5/3

Punting                                  2-63=31.5                2-41=20.5

Individual Statistics: Rushing – Topsail: Devin Williams 17-92; Josh Jessup 13-102; Hunter Jacobs 3-6. Croatan: Marshall Judon 15-31; Lonnie Murray 8-52; Kyle Colburn 6-19; Andrew Colburn 4-15. Passing – Topsail: Austin Schoenleber 7-11-85. Croatan: Kyle Hopewell 4-12-60, Marshall Judon 4-11-106, Kyle Colburn 1-1-17. Receiving – Topsail: Mason Kimmel 3-27, Hunter Jacobs 2-35, Addison Futrell 1-4, Devin Williams 1-20. Croatan: Lonnie Murray 3-62, Mitchell Smith 3-62, Beau Bryan 1-14, Marshall Judon 1-6, Kyle Colburn 1-minus-1. Defense – Topsail: Devin Williams 20 tackles; JakeemSmith 6 tackles, fumble recovery; Mason Kimmel 5 tackles; Addison Futrell 3 tackles, nterception, fumble recovery; Trevor Savidge 3 tackles, fumble recovery; Justin Lemaster 3 tackles; Cole McGinn interception. Croatan: Dillon Bannigan 4 tackles; Kyle Colburn 4 tackles; Mitchell Smith 2 tackles; Andrew Colburn 2 tackles; Caleb Orr 2 tackles; Bobby Straub 2 tackles; Eric Ellmo 2 tackles.

13th Oct2012

Lady Patriots topple Lady Titans, tie for first place

by Lee Wagner

BURGAW – After a somewhat disheartening loss to Lakewood on Tuesday that created a tie for first place in the Tri-County 1A conference, Thursday night could have been one of those “look past” games for the Pender High School volleyball team, except for two things.

The first was the game was against their closest (by location) rival in Trask, and those two teams simply do not like to lose to each other – heck, neighborhood bragging rights are on the line here.

The second is it was Senior Night at Pender, and there was no way this group of seniors, who have come so far in just two seasons under a new coach, were going to lose their final regular-season home game – and they did not.

Senior Kayvia Thompson made her last regular-season game a memorable one with 13 kills, three aces, and a dig, and classmate K. B. Hansley had six kills, an ace, and three digs as Pender closed out the regular season with a 3-0 (25-13, 27-25, 25-12) win over an always-scrappy Trask Titan team on Thursday on Senior Night in a Tri-County 1A Conference game on the Ray Horton Volleyball Court in Burgaw.

The Lady Patriots finished the regular season with an overall record of 16-5, and a 12-1 conference record, which allows them to share the regular-season conference title with Lakewood. The No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCHSAA 1A state tournament will be decided in next week’s conference tournament – whichever team wins or finishes higher in the tournament will be the top seed. Pender will face Wallace-Rose Hill at 6:00 p.m. at home on Monday to open tournament play.

The Lady Titans finished the regular season with an 8-10 overall record and a respectable 7-7 conference record. They will travel to Midway on Monday for a 6:30 p.m. start in the conference tournament.

“You can’t say enough about what our four seniors (Thompson, Hansley, Brenee’ Jones, and Ruby Gasca) meant to this team,” Pender Coach Matt Davis said. “They have put in the work to get to where they are, and they deserve all the rewards that come with it. More than their play their leadership is what will be the toughest thing to replace. Most teams would be hard-pressed to find one leader like any of our four seniors.

“They have worked hard all year to make sure they have trained up the next generation of Pender volleyball players and though they won’t be replaced, their legacy can be built upon by those younger girls whom they’ve mentored.”

On a night set aside to honor the seniors, Thompson, Jones, Hansley, and Gasca pretty much ran the show in the first game against the Lady Titans. After the festivities between the junior-varsity game and the varsity game, composure was hard to come by, but once the game started that wasn’t a problem.

Thompson had five kills in the opener and Gasca and Hansley had service runs of five or more points, and Jones added three blocks to the equation in a somewhat-relaxed 13-point victory.

Despite the fact it was Senior Night, Davis kept up his practice of getting the non-starters time on the court. Throughout the early portion of the game the Lady Titans, who built a 20-12 lead, which prompted Davis to put the seniors back on the floor, and they responded.

Those players needed an adjustment period and the Lady Titans ran the advantage out to 23-14 before the Lady Patriots mounted a charge behind Hansley and Thompson, who had three kills each.

Junior Cassidy Miller took over the serve for Pender with the Lady Patriots trailing 24-18 and ran off a seven-point spurt to tie the game at 25-25 when Pender lost the serve. A front-line kill by Thompson and a back-line big hit from Hansley gave Pender the 27-27 overtime win.

Davis chose to allow the seniors to end the night on the floor in the third game, and the score got lopsided quickly. Alyssa Carter started the game with a strong serving stint of four points, followed by Hansley with five points of her own, and Pender was up 9-2.

Leading 12-6, Thompson took the serve for the Lady Patriots and the lead mushroomed to 17-6. At 20-7 it was time for the Pender seniors to have one final curtain call, and they all left to a standing ovation from the crowd after four good years of hard work.

“It was their Senior Night and they really came out ready to play, Trask Coach Karen Byrd said.

The Lady Titans junior-varsity team fared better than the varsity by beating Pender 2-1 (23-25, 29-27, 25-23) in a close, hard-fought match. Rebecca Cooper had eight points and two blocks, and Brynee Coleman and Emilee Buchanon each added eight points in the win. The young Lady Titans finished 10-8 overall and 8-6 in the conference, winning their last five matches

Trask              13-25-12

Pender            25-27-25

Pender: Kayvia Thompson 13 kills, 3 aces, 1 dig; K. B. Hansley 6 kills, 1 ace, 3 digs; Brenee’ Jones 2 kills, 3 blocks, 2 ace, 1 dig; Ruby Gasca 2 aces; Jackie Sanabria 29 assists, 1 kill, 1 block, 1 ace; Alyssa Carter 8 kills, 1 ace; Brianna Pittman 8 kills, 3 blocks; Journey Knowles 2 blocks; Meghan Cleary 2 kills; Katy Stewart 4 assists, 1 ace; Amber Pyland 2 kills, 1 dig.

Trask: Rachel Wilson 5 kills; Anna Brodmerkel 8 assists; Kassidy Tyer 8 points, 4 aces, 10 digs.

12th Oct2012

Win over Richlands provides Lady Pirates
with third-straight outright title

by Lee Wagner

RICHLANDS – Now it’s official, you can move things around and dust where necessary because there is a new trophy ready to be placed in the trophy case at Topsail High School.

After going out and clinching no worse than a tie on Tuesday with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-10, 25-19) road win over Croatan, the Lady Pirates once again climbed on the activity bus on Thursday, and this time they quickly and efficiently disposed of the Lady Wildcats to achieve the first of three major goals they set before the year began.

The first, of course, was to win their third-straight East Central 2A Conference championship in this their final year as a 2A school. Chalk that one up to mission accomplished!

The second goal is to complete the conference schedule without a single blemish, and Thursday’s win was their 13th in 13 tries so far this season – now only Swansboro (9-8, 8-5) stands in the way of that goal. The win over Richlands was also the Lady Pirates’ 43rd-consecutive conference win dating back to the last two games in the 2009 season.

A win on Tuesday – Topsail’s Senior Night – would be No. 44, and while winning three conference titles in a row in this tough and highly-competitive conference is almost enough of a major accomplishment, finishing unbeaten in conference play for a third-consecutive season is almost unprecedented.

The third goal – is a trip to Raleigh in about three weeks, but that is a story for another day.

Junior Sammi Proulx had 13 service points and eight digs, junior Chandler Skipper had 10 digs, senior Lacey Akerley came off the bench to rack up eight points and seven kills, and sophomore Annie Johnson – in just her third varsity game since being called up from the junior-varsity team – showed it was a good decision with one point, two kills, and six digs as Topsail defeated Richlands 3-0 (25-10, 25-9, 25-15) on Thursday in an East Central 2A Conference volleyball in Richlands.

Topsail is now 18-3 overall and 13-0 in the conference after their 10th victory in a row. The one-sidedness of the game also allowed Topsail Coach Hill Pearsall to rest a lot of his starters, thus giving the dedicated bench players some valuable – and much-appreciated – floor time.

“Last night I was talking to (seniors) Carlie (Smith) and Angie (Poage) and they told me they had only lost one game in conference since they have been playing (against East Duplin), and that is quite a streak,” Pearsall said. “It takes the commitment of the girls to buy into what I want done – systems of defense, how to block in different situations, and making chances mid-game.

“This year, more than ever, I feel we have done a good job with that. I have had a great group of young ladies come through over this run. Two have gone on to play college volleyball. I have been fortunate that someone has stepped up to fill the void left behind by graduated players. We have had some tight games over that span with East Duplin and Swansboro, especially, which helped maintain our rivalries. Forty-three (43) straight wins is a testament to how hard the girls work in and out of season, and what can be accomplished by teamwork and self-motivation.”

Topsail            25-25-25

Richlands       10-  9-15

Topsail: Kayla Hyatt 6 kills, 3 blocks; Sammi Proulx 13 points, 8 digs; Reagan Holloway 7 points, 2 kills; Sarah Woodward 3 points, 5 kills; Angie Poage 7 points, 3 kills, 17 assists; Carlie Smith 3 points, 11 kills, 10 digs; Jenna Register 3 points, 6 assists; Kaleigh Bordeaux 10 points, 3 digs; Chandler Skipper 10 digs; Lacey Akerley 8 points, 7 kills; Annie Johnson 1 point, 2 kills, 6 digs.

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